Last Updated on May 15, 2023 by The Puppy Mag
I receive a lot of questions from owners about whether or not Shih Tzus can swim and whether it’s safe for them to be in the water.
It’s a great question with some very important answers. As this is commonly asked I’ll explain everything you need to know about Shih Tzus and water.
I’ll also provide some guidance on getting your Shih Tzu to be comfortable and safe in the water should they want to go for a swim!
Can Shih Tzus Swim?
Shih Tzus can swim, that’s for sure. But there are crucial things owners need to know first.
Shih Tzus, like most dog breeds, have the physical ability to swim.
However, due to their distinct physical characteristics – short legs, dense coat, and brachycephalic (flat) face – swimming can pose certain challenges for them.
Due to their natural disadvantage at staying afloat, this can cause obvious risks owners need to be aware of.
Are Shih Tzus Natural Swimmers?
Unlike breeds like Labrador Retrievers or Golden Retrievers, Shih Tzus are not natural swimmers.
Their short legs and compact bodies make it more difficult for them to stay afloat. But hey, they make up for that with their cuteness!
In addition, their flat faces make it challenging to keep their nose and mouth above water.
Remember, each Shih Tzu is unique, and while some may take to water like a duck, others might be more apprehensive or struggle with swimming.
It’s always best to proceed with caution.
Is It Safe for Shih Tzus to Swim?
It can be safe for Shih Tzus to swim, but precautions are necessary.
Due to their physical characteristics, Shih Tzus can tire quickly in the water and are at risk of inhaling water due to their flat faces.
As per the guidelines of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), it’s crucial to keep a close eye on your Shih Tzu while they are in the water and to never leave them unattended.
A life jacket specifically designed for dogs can provide an extra layer of safety and is always recommended for Shih Tzus.
Can Shih Tzus Enjoy Water Activities?
Absolutely! Many Shih Tzus enjoy playing in shallow water.
A kiddie pool or a shallow beach can be a great place for your Shih Tzu to cool off and have fun.
Remember to introduce your Shih Tzu to water gradually and in a controlled environment.
Allow them to explore at their own pace and never force them into the water if they seem scared or uncomfortable.
While owners can build a positive association betweeen their Shih Tzu and water, some will be more scared than others and take a lot longer to be comfortable. This is something owners must accept and be accommodating with.
When Can Shih Tzus Start to Swim?
Shih Tzus can be introduced to water at a young age. However, it’s important to do it gradually and under close supervision.
As Shih Tzus are so small, the level of water you can introduce them to will need to be very shallow, at least at first.
What age can Shih Tzus start swimming? For safety reasons it’s best to wait until your Shih Tzu is at least 6 months before trying to get them to swim.
Make sure the water is shallow and the environment is safe. Puppies, like children, can quickly get into dangerous situations around water, so constant vigilance is necessary.
Tips for Introducing Your Shih Tzu to Water
Introducing your Shih Tzu to water can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it requires patience, care, and attention to detail.
Whether it’s their first time or they’ve been hesitant in the past, here are detailed tips to help your Shih Tzu become more comfortable around water:
- Create a Calm Environment: Start in a quiet, familiar environment where your Shih Tzu feels safe. This could be a kiddie pool in your backyard or even your bathroom. Avoid noisy or crowded places that might stress your dog.
- Gradual Introduction: Start by letting your Shih Tzu explore the area around the water. Let them get used to the sounds and smells. Gradually encourage them to get closer to the water, but always let them move at their own pace.
- Use Positive Reinforcement: Praise your Shih Tzu for every small achievement. If they step into the water, give them a treat or their favorite toy. This will create positive associations with the water.
- Join Them: If possible, get into the water with your Shih Tzu. Your presence can reassure them and make them feel more secure.
- Keep Sessions Short: Keep initial sessions brief to avoid overwhelming your Shih Tzu. Over time, as their confidence grows, you can gradually extend these sessions.
- Invest in a Dog Life Jacket: A dog life jacket can provide your Shih Tzu with extra buoyancy and make them feel more comfortable in the water. Ensure it fits correctly and gives them full movement.
- Teach Them to Enter and Exit Safely: Make sure your Shih Tzu knows how to get in and out of the water safely. This is particularly important if you’re introducing them to a pool.
- Dry Them Properly After Each Session: Shih Tzus have a dense coat that can retain water, leading to potential skin issues. Make sure to dry them thoroughly after each swimming session, paying particular attention to their ears to prevent infections.
- Monitor Their Reaction: Always observe your Shih Tzu’s behavior around water. If they seem scared or anxious, don’t push them. It may take time, but with patience and positive reinforcement, many Shih Tzus can learn to enjoy water.
Remember, not all Shih Tzus will love water, and that’s okay. The goal is to ensure they’re comfortable around it, even if they don’t turn into avid swimmers.
As the RSPCA advises, it’s always essential to respect your dog’s boundaries and never force them into situations where they feel uncomfortable.
Potential Health Concerns
Water activities can pose certain health risks for Shih Tzus. As mentioned earlier, they can quickly tire in the water and are at risk of inhaling water due to their flat faces. Hypothermia can also be a concern if they’re in cold water for too long.
Maintaining your Shih Tzu’s health is of paramount importance, and consistent veterinary visits are essential for this purpose.
The VCA Hospitals emphasize the need for vigilant observation of your Shih Tzu both during and post-swimming to identify any indications of discomfort or abnormal behavior promptly.
Here are some potential health concerns:
- Ear Infections: Shih Tzus are prone to ear infections, and water in the ears can exacerbate this issue. Always dry your Shih Tzu’s ears thoroughly after swimming. If you notice any signs of an infection, such as redness, swelling, or a bad smell, consult your vet.
- Skin Issues: The Shih Tzu’s dense coat can retain moisture, which can lead to skin issues like hot spots. Make sure to dry your dog thoroughly after swimming, and regularly check their skin and coat for any problems.
- Water Intoxication: This is a serious but rare condition that can occur if a dog ingests too much water. Symptoms include lethargy, bloating, vomiting, and loss of coordination. If you notice any of these signs, seek immediate veterinary attention.
Expert Opinions on Shih Tzus and Swimming
Experts generally agree that while Shih Tzus can swim, it’s not an activity that comes naturally to them, and they should always be closely supervised around water. According to Dr. Jerry Klein, the AKC’s Chief Veterinary Officer, “It’s crucial to introduce Shih Tzus to water gradually and to always prioritize their safety and comfort.”
While Shih Tzus are not natural swimmers, they can certainly enjoy water activities with the right precautions.
Always supervise your Shih Tzu around water, and consider investing in a doggy life jacket. Remember, each Shih Tzu is unique and may react differently to water.
Always respect your dog’s comfort level and never force them to swim if they’re not willing.
With patience, positive reinforcement, and a focus on safety, you and your Shih Tzu can enjoy plenty of fun and refreshing times around water.
As always, when in doubt, consult with your vet or a professional dog trainer. The ultimate goal is to ensure the health and happiness of your furry friend!